Predicting the FCS playoff bracket is going to be as difficult as it’s ever been for the 2021 spring season.
The 24-team bracket has been reduced to 16 teams. The typical format is 10 auto-bids from 10 conferences and 14 at-large bids. This spring, there will be 10 auto-bids and only six at-large bids.
Only four teams will be seeded compared to the usual eight.
Fall games are included in playoff resumes. And while teams can play up to eight regular-season spring games in a 13-week period, the amount of games conferences are playing ranges from four to eight. A minimum of four games must be played to qualify as an at-large bid.
In short, there is going to be a huge imbalance when evaluating playoff resumes. Nonetheless, we will give it a shot and provide weekly playoff predictions.
These predictions take current playoff resumes and all future scheduled games into consideration.
Seeds 1. NDSU 2. JMU 3. Weber 4. SDSU
Auto-Bids Big Sky – Weber Big South – Kennesaw CAA – JMU MVFC – NDSU NEC – Sacred Heart OVC – JSU Patriot – Holy Cross Pioneer – San Diego SoCon – Furman Southland – Nicholls
At-Large Bids(Ranked from most likely to least likely to get in) 11. SDSU 12. EWU 13. Villanova 14. SHSU 15. Wofford 16. UNI
Bubble Teams Left Out 17. Albany 18. Monmouth 19. SEMO 20. Illinois State
The Movement Only one major change from last week’s preseason bracketology. Austin Peay gets bounced from the field after a tough loss to Tennessee Tech. The Govs are 0-4 overall and 0-2 against FCS opponents when factoring in the fall. Wofford slides in. The Terriers looked strong against Mercer with a fast defense and a balanced offensive attack.
UNI is still in the field but slides down to the very last spot. You can’t punish the Panthers too much for losing to SDSU. But they are already up against the wall, and one more loss will push them to the bubble.
Seeds Nothing changed with my four seeds from last week. I am interested to see if the MVFC would actually get two seeds, though, or if those four slots will be filled by the committee from four different conferences. The best-case scenario for the Valley to get two seeds is if NDSU/SDSU finishes 8-0/7-1.
Bubble Teams I think Albany has massive potential to push Villanova for the CAA North Division title. I lean Nova right now, and I’m not sure if the CAA will get two of the six at-large bids.
Kennesaw is mostly everyone’s favorite in the Big South this season. But Monmouth won it in 2019 and has plenty of good players coming back that shouldn’t completely overshadow the losses of its stud QB and RB. However, I am unsure right now that the Big South will get an at-large bid.
SEMO has been a consistent playoff team in recent seasons. With Austin Peay losing to Tennessee Tech, SEMO could be that second-place team behind JSU. But again, would the OVC get an at-large bid this spring?
Illinois State should be strong again. Probably not as good as last year’s quarterfinal team, but still good enough to make the playoffs in a normal season. But this spring, the MVFC is not getting four teams into the bracket. The Redbirds will have to jump NDSU, SDSU, or UNI for a top-three spot to have a shot at the playoffs.
Sam’s coverage of the FCS began in 2012 as the sports editor and eventual editor-in-chief of NDSU’s The Spectrum. After graduating in 2015, he spent three years in the newspaper and magazine industry while starting his work for HERO Sports in the fall of 2016 as a freelancer. In May 2018, he joined the website full time as the Senior FCS Analyst.